In my efforts to promote the true Catholic agenda, I have learned that ignorance is the one of our greatest enemies. There are two types: conscious ignorance and unconscious ignorance. Unfortunately, the great majority of people who disagree with the Church’s true agenda are afflicted with unconscious ignorance. That is, they are ignorant of the fact that they are ignorant. They are often well educated, intelligent and fairly well informed; however, like me during my youth, they have been indoctrinated to believe untruths.
In the 1970s, television shows and movies often focused on American slums and urban problems. The TV series “Good Times” took place in Chicago, while “Sandford and Son” took place in Los Angeles. Movies, such as “Death Wish” and “Taxi Driver,” both set in New York, help complete the picture by focusing on the violence, drug abuse and prostitution rampant in large American cities. As an inexperienced youth living in Toronto (then called “Toronto the Good”), I was left with a very negative impression of the U.S.
When I was 20, I dated an American girl who was living in Toronto. I shared my unconscious ignorance about the U.S. with her and, of course, she was somewhat offended. “You’ve never really travelled in the U.S.,” she said. “You don’t know what you are talking about!”
Since then, I have travelled a lot in the U.S. I’ve discovered that while many dangerous, drug infested urban areas do exist, there are also many safe, clean suburbs, countless charming towns, and a great deal of natural beauty.
I’ve learned not to trust what I think I know about something, and I’ve learned to be sceptical about what I learn from various sources. In University, I learned to utilize many books, written from different viewpoints, before drawing conclusions. Now, as a middle-aged man, I’ve also learned that while “book knowledge” is important, there’s no substitute for personal experience.
Two very good examples of unconscious ignorance concern public perceptions about homosexuality and abortion. Everyone knows that homosexual sex is sex between people of the same gender and that abortion is the termination of unborn life. However, the mass media and the school system have grossly distorted the public’s perception concerning these issues.
As a young man in the 1980s, I thought I knew everything about homosexuality -- until I got a job selling newspaper ads in downtown Toronto. The city has one of the highest number of homosexuals in North America, most of whom seem to live in the downtown core. Several of them worked in my office and told me things about the “gay scene” that curled the hair on my neck. I then did some research and learned a lot more. I came to realize that the image of homosexuality presented by the mass media and the school system is generally sanitized to a degree that it is essentially a lie.
I’ve always considered my self prolife. In the early 1990s, when I was the editor of a Christian magazine in Guelph, Ontario, a woman came to visit me at my office and accused me of not being “really” prolife. When I protested and insisted that she was wrong, she said she would come to visit me again. A few weeks later, without saying a word, she gave me several of the most graphic, disturbing pictures of aborted babies I had ever seen. As tears welled in my eyes, I realized that she had been right. I had not been “really” prolife because I had not realized just how truly horrible abortion is.
We are all ignorant to some degree. Let’s continue learning about what God really wants us to know and understand. The information we need is readily available. Also, God will give us “eyes to see and ears to hear” if we ask Him to. When we interact with others who disagree with us, let us keep in mind that they are usually misinformed. Let us gently invite them to gather more information and let us be ready to provide that information. There are those who will stubbornly refuse to even consider a different viewpoint. That is when we must pray to God to soften hearts and open minds.